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Founded in 2002 by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and her husband, Timur Tillyaev, You Are Not Alone is one of the foremost philanthropic organizations in Uzbekistan. It has a deserved reputation for innovative programs designed to help disadvantaged kids get a better chance in life. For Lola and Timur the goal is, “ensuring that vulnerable children grow up in a caring and loving environment.”. A central plank is support for education.
In the early days You Are Not Alone funded the refurbishment of orphanages across the country. Then, recognizing how students from financially challenged families tended to fall behind or even abandon their education all together, Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev opened The Educational Centre in 2003. They recruited educational specialists who could be more than just teachers but also take on the role of mentors – in some cases filling the void created by an absence of family. The results were remarkable. Behaviour in and outside of the classroom improved, absenteeism decreased and learning outcomes dramatically improved.
Kids at the center are encouraged to dream big. In the nearly 2 decades of the center´s operation, over 2,500 kids have been enrolled. These students include orphans, kids from underprivileged families and kids with disabilities. Lola Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev derive great satisfaction from the fact that a significant number of past pupils have gone on to universities both inside Uzbekistan and overseas. Many of these students would have once thought such an opportunity as unattainable.
Evidently, this kind of success is dependent on a variety of factors. However, one of the most important would be the care taken to treat each participant as an individual and tailor the approach to suit. As Lola Tillyaeva has said elsewhere,
“The Educational Centre’s specialists seek to create a culture of learning and to boost the children’s confidence by treating each child as an individual, acknowledging and building on their strong points while providing them with support and encouragement as they explore the many career options available to them, helping them to find their own best match.”
With this goal in mind the syllabus is comprehensive. Core subjects such as maths, science, IT and languages are prominent. To ensure a well-rounded development the students are also offered electives such as dance, music and painting. For those with no plans to enter university, there is also the option for vocational training. Given that many of the students come from unstable homes, practical courses in cooking, housekeeping and managing a family budget are also provided.
Numerous international studies demonstrate the value of Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev´s approach. For example, one Canadian study found that,
“A child’s home has a particularly strong impact on school readiness. Children from low-income families often do not receive the stimulation and do not learn the social skills required to prepare them for school. Typical problems are parental inconsistency (with regard to daily routines and parenting), frequent changes of primary caregivers, lack of supervision and poor role modelling.”
The Educational Centre is one more example of Lola Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev’s dedication to ensuring that, “Education is at the heart of everything the You Are Not Alone foundation does.”
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